Board Workshop: SCF Board of Trustees Hear From Community on Need for 4-Year Degrees

(Bradenton, Fla., September 24, 2009) -Charged by the state of Florida with providing local access to workforce baccalaureate degrees at an affordable cost to students and taxpayers, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, (SCF) has responded to the community's request for four-year degree programs.

At an SCF District Board of Trustees workshop on Thursday, board members received preliminary results of a needs assessment for the proposed programs and heard from community and business leaders who requested the new programs be offered locally.
SCF Board of Trustees in May gave approval to proceed with the formal application process for six new baccalaureate programs including: energy technology, health services administration, public safety/homeland security, technology management, early childhood education (birth through age 4) and exceptional student education.
The College's first baccalaureate program, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) degree, was approved by the State Board of Education on March 17 after local health care professionals supported the College's efforts in bringing the program to the area. The application for the program is now considered a model for the state in approving other bachelor's programs at state colleges. So far, 124 applications have been received and $500,000 has been raised in support of SCF's B.S.N. program starting in January, said Dr. Mike Mears, SCF vice president of baccalaureate degree programs.
"That was a real success story and that's what we want to build on," Mears said.
So far, SCF has had 1, 700 responses from various student surveys on the six proposed programs and expects to have 2,000 at the conclusion of the needs assessment.
Steve Harner, board chairman and a businessman in the community, expressed the importance of listening to the needs of SCF's customers-students, prospective students, employers and the community.
"Today's workshop once again shows that we at SCF have listened to stakeholders, we have done our homework, we are not interested in duplicating programs, but we are interested in supporting taxpayers' best interests by providing needed fiscally responsible, four-year workforce degrees," Harner said. 
Here's a sampling of what community and business leaders had to say:
Early Childhood Education (birth through age 4)
New Degree Not Previously Offered in Florida
Dr. Gwen Brown, chair, Manatee County Commission Board, worked to develop the local Head Start Program in Manatee County. Head Start will be working vigorously to comply with a requirement to have 50 percent of child care teachers earn a bachelor's degree by the year 2013.  The demand for qualified, educated teachers has evolved throughout the years as research has shown the importance of early childhood development in preparing children to learn how to read, write and relate to others.
"It is urgent," she said. "It's not about keeping children anymore. It's not about babysitting. It's about helping children develop so that they can learn." -Gwen Brown
SCF graduates and employees of Children First, a Head Start program in Sarasota, said that an early childhood education program offered locally would attract employees not only from their organization but also from other childhood educators in the two-county area.
SCF graduate Michelle Bundy struggled to complete her bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida because classes were dispersed across the Gulf Coast region in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Venice and Seminole. 
"As a single mom, it took me six years to complete a four-year degree at USF."- Michelle Bundy, SCF graduate
Saran DeVaughn, also SCF graduate, expressed interest in pursuing a bachelor's degree if it were offered closer to home.
"It makes life so much easier to commute seven miles as opposed to Tampa," she said. "Speaking as a single parent and trying to go to school and work, there are people who would come when SCF offers the bachelor's program."-Saran DeVaughn
Exceptional Student Education (ESE)
Karen Feduccia, chair of Board of Directors for Manatee Bringing Up Down Syndrome (BUDS), has a six-year-old child with Down Syndrome. Feduccia pleaded for SCF to offer a bachelor's degree in exceptional student education so that teachers would be equipped to help Down Syndrome children learn. The bachelor's ESE degree would not only draw students to the college, but would keep them interested in staying and working in the area.
"Many children with Down Syndrome are very capable learners. All they need is highly trained professional teachers that help them learn. It would be amazing to me that anyone wanting to train to be a teacher would ever want to leave this community. If we train teachers who stay in our community, it only has a ripple effect on our economy."
Christine Fioritto-Skett, SCF student and child advocate, has a son with autism. She had considered an occupational therapy degree but prefers to earn a bachelor's in a more concentrated area of exceptional student education. Students with special needs can be integrated into classrooms, causing a need for teachers to have specialized training.
"We need educators that can teach to all children throughout every classroom in our schools. We need to meet all children's needs. There will be a need for more teachers that are qualified to teach exceptional students."
Energy Technology
Robert Garcia, vice president of business development at Trane, expressed support for SCF to offer a bachelor's degree in energy technology that is not offered in the state. The program would not only train technologically advanced young people to face today's energy challenges but create jobs so that graduates will stay in the area.
"In my business, it's a very difficult job to find a person with that kind of training. This program will fill what we call an educational hole in our business," he said.  "We have committed ourselves to help your foundation so that we can raise funds to get this program going."
Public Safety/Homeland Security
Local fire chiefs and police officers expressed a vital need for public service in the area. Workers in the field pay costly education at private schools or attend public colleges and universities often prolonging completion of their degree because of the inconvenience of traveling to other areas.
Mark Souders, fire chief, Bradenton Fire Department
"Degrees and education requirements are becoming more important to have success in my business," he said. "If you want a job in my business in public safety, a two year degree in fire science will get you started. The four year degree will promote you to a much higher salary."
Steve Simpson, operations officer, Manatee County Emergency Management
"This is a human resource that rightfully should be homegrown," he said. "It's our aim to leave our organization better than we found it in new, capable hands."
Bill Tokajer, deputy chief, Bradenton City Police Department
"A public safety degree is a necessity, and we don't have it here. All of our officers need higher education. When we have such a wonderful campus here, it's ridiculous that we're allowing our citizens to go somewhere else when they could be doing the work right here," he said.
Technology Management
Staci Cross, chief technology officer, City of Bradenton
"I can hire any day someone with technology skills. What I have a hard time finding is business skills," she said. "This degree is about putting forth more well-rounded individuals and work with my business users. It's not about implementing technology. It's about solving business problems."
Health Services Administration
Mary Ann Conroy, president and CEO of Englewood Community Hospital, was a strong supporter of the new R.N. to B.S.N. program when it was approved in March by the State Board of Education. She applauds the College for pursuing a bachelor's degree in health services administration.
"This will provide our residents the gift of education. This is something that can never be taken from you. Health care positions will continue to be in demand over the next generation. The need for health services administration will never be limited."-Mary Ann Conroy
Vernon DeSear, vice president, Manatee Memorial Hospital,also supported SCF by joining College officials in Tallahassee to express to the State Board of Education the need for the nursing program. But more educational options are vital to the needs of the health care profession.
"The bachelor's in health services administration would give students a chance to go one step higher in education. We feel State College of Florida has taken the lead and given them the option of doing it right here in our own town. We've seen a chance to make this a success with everybody working together."-Vernon DeSear
Despite the clear demand for workforce baccalaureate degree programs in the area, Sarasota-Manatee branch campus of the University of South Florida (USF) has sent an alternative proposal to the State Board of Education, contending that the degree programs are already being offered locally.
Dr. Jack Crocker, vice president of academic quality and success, said the shift in higher education is one to which the community has only recently been introduced.
"What we had with the USF/MCC model was a 20thCentury model. We now have a 21st Century model with State College of Florida locally offering bachelor's degrees," he said.
 "We're convinced here today from what we have heard there is overwhelming support from our community that these programs are needed," Crocker said. "These are not duplicated programs. They are needed by the community and we will continue to go forward as the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota."
SCF President Dr. Lars Hafner vowed that if any programs were found to be duplicative, he would return to the board to request to withdraw that program.
"Why would anyone want to stand in the way for more workforce degrees in the area? By offering four-year degrees locally, we are doing this for the students, we are doing this for the businesses, and we are doing this for the community," Hafner said.
Bachelor's programs offered at the state college level are cost-effective, operating on significantly less state funding when compared to universities and costing less in tuition for individual students.
Hafner emphasized that SCF will continue its mission to produce associate's degree graduates while expanding to include other programs vital to the needs of local economy.
Crocker cited the popularity of the college and university systems' state articulation agreement known as the 2 + 2 program as an example of a continuing partnership between SCF and USF that works well for students.
The timeline to have the baccalaureate programs application completed and submitted to the state is early October.


Page Edit